Azad Essa is a very rare tribe. With an unusual chutzpah, he dons several hats: that of an Al-Jazeera journalist, blogger and a keen observer of peoples and cultures around the globe. It is not surprising that his first book ‘The Moslems are coming’ cuts through the usual fakery about the most pressing issues that confront us. In simple words the book has balls.
Divided into seven major chapters, each of which is further sub-divided into mini-chapters, Azad launches into a no holds barred account on assorted themes that range from the Burqa ban in France to the brisk business of cricket bats in Kashmir. But what holds the book together is its spiky sense of humor. ‘The Moslems are coming’ is sharp as a tack.
The chapter on Kashmir, which is actually a set of three needle-like blogs, is simply dubbed ‘India, Pakistan or Azadi’. The self-explanatory title perhaps tells us much more about the Kashmir conundrum than the joint efforts of Indian bureaucracy in nationalistic ties and media men blabbering away on Kashmir in self-righteous tones, holding somewhat grimy mikes. The essays, as part of Azad’s Kashmir barnstorm, are bluntastically delicious.
Make no mistakes ‘The Moslems are coming’ shoots straight arrows. In the interpolation to the vexed Kashmir problem, something that has intellectuals and policy-makers confounded since the start of mankind, Azad waxes eloquent. ‘What then of a place like Kashmir? Stuck between Western diplomacy and Indian ascendancy, Kashmiri ambitions for national self-determination suit no one. They have little power, little coordination, a disjointed leadership, a history of an armed insurgency and scant media swagger; their cause is like screaming for a lost donkey in the Himalayas.’
So many times I have wondered if we lack a common symbol. Some hornbook or an emblem that we could all feel strongly associated with. We do not have, the truth be told, anything in the tiny valley of ours, which we can relate to, in our quest for whatever we have set out to attain. The author’s hawk-eye notices the void. ‘Of course, Palestine and Tibet, despite their banners, bandannas and flags, are going nowhere rather slowly, but Kashmir does not even have that recognizable paraphernalia one could use to pick up chicks with.’
‘The Moslems are coming’ isn’t hard as nails, though it might appear so, given Azad’s condition, last diagnosed as acute humoroid. There are deadpan serious passages when he writes about a father’s anguish in Kashmir. The son, of course, like thousands of poor Kashmiris has gone missing. A mere statistic for the fat government babus and a perpetual psychological torture for the families who haven't given up hope. It requires a certain humanism to articulate this dichotomy.
May it be the dervish looking poplars of Kashmir, the abandoned homes of Pandits or the fine willow trees lining the valley’s beautiful hamlets, the book skips nothing. Azad’s rendezvous with the owners of willow factories could make sociologists’ green with envy. How the Himalayan conflict affects the overall cricket bat business in Sangam makes for some very interesting cheese!
‘All we need is for Pakistan to win every series, and we’d do well,' a cricket bat factory owner, somewhere in the heart of Kashmir, confides in the author.
The head says India, the heart whistles Pakistan. ‘The Moslems are coming’ snorts all scents of the conflict.